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322 Friends
by Niles Reddick

Al posted on Facebook about his gruesome surgery: a gangrenous appendix ruptured and shot infection throughout his body, near death until the antibiotics flushed the poison. “Worst case the doctor’d ever seen,” he wrote. Nothing short of a miracle, and he was appreciative, vowed to do more for others and be a better Christian, and offered his philosophic wisdom to readers: Don’t take life for granted. You just never know.

He hoped for a hundred likes, maybe twenty comments. While waiting on the red numbers to climb just above the globe at the top of the page, he scrolled past the memes, prayer chains, and onto the news of beheadings by ISIS, more looting in Ferguson, and opinions on gay marriage. “Crazy world,” he mumbled. “These people ought to get jobs and Jesus.”

A ding or two, and Al went back to see “Thinking of you” and “Prayers” from people he’d known in high school in the 1960s when his hair was long and he toked a little, when his parents were idiots and didn’t support integration. Al’s town had closed the local pool and filled it in rather than follow the court order to integrate. The answers then were blowing in the wind, but the winds of time blew the answers away and now Al’s circle had closed in on itself; most of his friends were mere connections and the rest followed him and he followed them, further isolated from the outside world and more trapped inside their homes with their grown-up toys.